It may sound odd to some people, but I think the best pastoring book out there wasn’t written by a follower of Jesus nor was it written as a pastoring book. Rather it was written by an atheist known to write satires against religion of all types.
The book I’m talking about is A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.
Yes, I just named a fantasy novel about a young witch the best pastoring book out there. Yeah, I know it is strange; but bear with me as Pratchett really does have a lot to say about pastoring people.
The novel A Hat Full of Sky is about a young gal, Tiffany Aching, who is learning to become a witch. At first, Tiffany is excited about her new apprenticeship with an elderly witch, Miss Level. However rather than learning “real magic” like she thought she would, Tiffany assists Miss Level in helping out the elderly, tired, poor and outcasts of the community. These seemingly insignificant and un-magical tasks eventually gets the best of Tiffany who asks Granny Weatherwax (the most highly-regarded witch in the land) why she has do that stuff. Listen to Granny Weatherwax answer:
“Now that’s what I call magic—seein’ all that, dealin’ with all that, and still goin’ on. It’s sittin’ up all night with some poor old man who’s leavin’ the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin’ their terror, seein’ ‘em safely on their way…and then cleanin’ ‘em up, layin’ ‘em out, making ‘em neat for the funeral, and helpin’ the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets—which is, let me tell you, no errand for the fainthearted—and stayin’ up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin’ on your door ‘cuz his wife’s havin’ difficulty givin’ birth to their first child and the midwife’s at her wits’ end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again…We all do that, in our own way, and she does it better’n me, if I was to put my hand on my heart. That is the root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft, that is. The soul and center!”
In really reading Granny Weatherwax’s response to Tiffany, you realize that witches in Pratchett’s Discworld books act a lot like pastors. Or, perhaps I should say, they act like what pastors should act like. Witches are the ones who help teach the people, the ones fighting for justice while not seeking credit, the ones helping the poor, helpless, elderly, and the like. Witches, in the words of Pratchett, help “people when life is on the edge. Even people you don’t like.”
The problem is that not all witches agree with Granny Weatherwax’s definition of witchcraft. Some of them would rather have the gold and glory that comes with positions of power rather than serving in the shadows. Tiffany has to make the choice as to what type of which she is going to be – just like new pastors must make a choice of what type of pastor they are going to be. Are they going to use their position to seek personal glory? To use the trappings of showmanship to wow the crowd and emotional direct the people to follow them just like the antagonists of our book?
It may sound like a simple decision. Say “no” to showmanship and “yes” to loving people. Reality isn’t that simple. Reality is messy with broken relationships, sick people throwing up on you, others taking advantage of your good graces, etc., etc. This is why I like this book and would recommend all new pastors to read it. Pratchett, as a student of human nature, paints a messing picture of a young gal faced with the same decisions a new pastors is faced with. Learning to navigate the emotions that flood our lives…well, I guess that is something we all – pastors, non-pastors, young, old, female and male – must learn to do.
So in conclusion, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett. Read it for fun and, while you do, think about the pastoral implications of being a witch.